When My Kitchen is the Classroom
Most mothers, when they walk into their kitchen and find their iron skillet full of rust (because their son did not dry and oil it properly after use), might be annoyed.
Homeschooling mothers, on the other hand, are usually delighted. The discovery becomes another learning opportunity, where the children pile into the kitchen and a discussion of what it is, how it got there, and how it can be prevented follows.
It is how the world (in this case, the kitchen) becomes your classroom, and how you make learning interesting and unforgettable for your children.
It goes something like this:
"Hey, kids, come here! I want you to see something interesting."
"What happened to the pan?" they inquire.
"Exactly, does anyone know what this is?" I point to the rust.
"It looks like rust," they reply, for every child at an early age learns to avoid a rusty nail.
"It is rust, but does anyone know why the pan became rusty?"
"No, how did it get like that?" They are wondering if the pan is now ruined, and one child looks a little guilty.
I then send them off to get their science encyclopedias and they look up how rust is formed. They learn that when impure iron (cast iron) meets water and oxygen, the iron gives some of its electrons to the oxygen and the oxidation process begins.
As rust is formed it eats away at the pan, and, if left for a long period of time, will eventually corrode it, which is exactly why we never leave a wet iron skillet to dry by itself.
And the Learning Continues
We could go on to teach them about the parts of an atom and how molecules are formed and so on.
We could then explain that the study of chemistry is partly about how matter is made up of different atoms and molecular structures and how they react to one another and how they behave in the physical world.
From the rust on the iron skillet, a host of questions will arise and we will go as deep as the children want in helping them to discover the answer to their questions, plus all the additional things they will learn along the way.
This is the kind of learning that engages children, fosters their interest in the world around them, and keeps them thinking and questioning and wanting to discover more. Next, we can proceed to the language arts section of our rusty matter.
Onto Writing and History
The children can write a few lines or a paragraph, depending upon their age, about their understanding of how rust forms and anything else they learned around this discovery. We could also take them to the library to find books that elaborate more about some of the things they are questioning.
We could then move on to history and teach them about the Iron Age and/or give them a lesson about how iron skillets and griddles were the mainstay in a woman's kitchen prior to the 20th century, to later be replaced by pans with plastic coatings so the food did not stick.
We could venture even further and tell them that often times we look for solutions to things that aren't really problems, and we create problems, because while always having to scrub an iron skillet and seasoning a pan may be a nuisance, the off-gassing from the teflon-coated cookware is enough to kill a small bird, so it certainly can't be good for our health.
This conversation could lead into a conversation about trying to live as naturally in the world as God intended, because sometimes it is wiser to leave well-enough alone.
Now you can see how a little rust in a skillet, found in your kitchen, becomes fodder for multiple science lessons, history lessons, language arts lessons (spelling, grammar and writing, though its better not to be pedantic with young writers), a lesson in theology, not to mention a lesson in environmentalism and the benefits of simple living.
The Biggest Lesson
But, the biggest lesson to be learned is the lesson of doing things right, which brings us back to why there was rust in the skillet in the first place. When we find our children doing a substandard job, according to their ability, it is a helpful reminder to have them recite this poem to etch the lesson into their consciousness:
Work while you work,
Play while you play,
This is the way,
To be happy each day.
All that you do,
Do with your might,
Things done by halves
Are never done right.
And, this, my friends, is a lesson in morality, or choosing to do the right thing so you develop a strong moral character and not a weak, lazy one.
The art of homeschooling is taking a simple event, like the rust in the skillet, and turning it into a rich learning experience that incorporates many different subjects and teaches many different lessons, all unforgettable because the learning naturally grew out of an interest in the subject and within the context of the real world which is the best way to learn.
Elizabeth Y. Hanson teaches parents how to give their children a private-school education at home.